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prevention and early intervention in children's mental health

Benefits of early intervention

Benefits of early intervention for someone experiencing a mental illness may include:

  • lower risk of relapse

  • reduced vocational/developmental disruption

  • less stressful assessment and treatment

  • reduced need for hospitalization

  • reduced family disruption and distress

  • improved recovery and better attitudes to treatment

  • reduced risk of suicide

MHERC Manitoba (nd). Early Intervention.

Prevention in mental health aims to:

  • reduce the incidence,

  • prevalence, and

  • recurrence

of mental health disorders and their associated disability. Preventive interventions are based on modifying risk exposure and strengthening the coping mechanisms of the individual


risk factors

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Examples of prevention programs

The above graphic is a model of a continuum of prevention and early intervention services. It is intended as a starting point for regional planning and collaboration with community partners. The model reflects the three levels of prevention, and identifies examples of programs and services provided at each level. This tool can be used to emphasize building community capacity, offering early interventions and ensuring more accessible supports are available for families. It is also beneficial for stakeholders already involved in the process, and highlights supports someone can be referred to, and/or continue to participate in, community-based programs.


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The above graphic is a screenshot of the Mental Health Meter hosted by the Canadian Mental Health Association. Understanding the characteristics that make up good mental health will help you determine how mentally fit you are. The purpose of this tool is to highlight how mentally fit you are in five capacities: your ability to enjoy life, your resilience, your balance, your self-actualization, and your flexibility. This tool can be used to help youth highlight the areas in their life they can actively work on to prevent, or address, any mental health issues they might be facing early on. It can also be used as a pre-assessment for an educator, to then provide information to the appropriate parties and recommending if a student should speak to a counsellor, or see their doctor.  

The above video describes how schools measure mental well-being, and how schools can decide what measures to use. This tool can be used to help schools develop strategies to ensure that youth are able to feel well, while in school. 

The Good behaviour game

  • A classroom-based behavioural management program

  • Has long-lasting effects in preventing later poor outcomes

  • In a study, first and second graders were divided into teams that “compete” for rewards by adhering to teacher-defined rules for behaviour

  • All teams can win by keeping the number of infractions down

    • The goal of the intervention is to encourage a positive learning environment and healthy social communication. 

  • Effective in reducing problem behaviours in the classroom

  • Has significant effects many years later

  • A follow-up study of children in classrooms which use the good behaviour game, when they reached the age of 19-21 found significantly lower rates of drug and alcohol use disorders, regular smoking, antisocial personality disorder, delinquency and incarceration for violent crimes and suicide thoughts.

  • "Young adult outcomes for children in the GBG group showed a 50% reduction in risk of drug abuse or dependence; a 35% risk reduction for alcohol abuse or dependence; a 59% decreased risk for regular smoking; and a 32% reduction in risk of developing antisocial personality disorder."

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Kellam, S. G., Brown, C. H., Poduska, J., Ialongo, N., Wang, W., Toyinbo, P., … Wilcox, H. C. (2008). Effects of a Universal Classroom Behavior Management Program in First and Second Grades on Young Adult Behavioral, Psychiatric, and Social Outcomes. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 95(Suppl 1), S5–S28. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2008.01.004

aboriginal ways tried and true

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This screenshot comes from the Government of Canada's Public Health Agency. This tool compiles links to resources and solutions to plan programs for promoting health in Indigenous communities. This tool can be used to access interventions based on the best available and successful public health interventions occurring in First Nation, Metis, and Inuit communities. The interventions are culturally-relevant. 


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This screenshot comes from CAMH. The purpose of this website is to provide viewers with access to potential services that are available for Indigenous children and youth. The services are culture-based specifically for Indigenous peoples. This tool can be used to help come up with preventative measures for declining mental health in Indigenous communities based on the Indigenous connection to family, community and nature.

First nations health authority

This screenshot comes from the First Nations Health Authority, in collaboration with the National Collaborating Centre for Indigenous Health. This link provides four resources for First Nations and Métis parents and caregivers: Growing Up Healthy; Family Connections; Parents as First Teachers; and Fatherhood is Forever.

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